Barbados steps up business competitiveness with free Wi-Fi
A private sector push to make Barbados a more attractive place to do business has resulted in more than half the island with free Wi-Fi access.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday November 11, 2011 – The vision of Barbados as a 24-hour work hub has moved closer to reality as the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) reports that almost 60% of the island is now wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) accessible.
This was the position achieved by November 11, 2011, the target date initially set one year ago by the BEF to achieve full island-wide free internet access.
While acknowledging that they had fallen short of this ambitious target, the private sector-led foundation was pleased to report that their concerted efforts had transformed the island from a position of about 1% free wireless access to almost 60% access.
Chief Executive Officer of the BEF, Damian McKinney, noted that the target was a critical one in the development of Barbados as a business hub.
He said: “The project is fundamental to propelling Barbados to the center of global business with the incremental proliferation of free Wi-fi hotspots, which in turn will enable new business opportunities and innovations.”
He highlighted that while Barbados enjoys a literacy rate of an estimated 99.7%, it is now an indisputable fact that Internet literacy is the new necessary paradigm. Indeed, IT capability and capacity is the single most important transformational force that Barbados can harness, now, when seeking to compete for the lifeblood that is global market share.
The initiative, branded: ‘11.11.11 Wi-Fi Barbados – Wi Not’, was made possible through the collaboration of government, private sector, public sector, labour and telecommunications providers.
It was a project of the BEF’s business facilitation pillar led by Melanie Jones, a partner at regional law firm Lex Caribbean and the first vice president of the Barbados International Business Association.
Lex Caribbean was one of the keys to the success of the initiative when in May this year it created a guest network accessible up to one kilometer West and North of their offices in Worthing, Christ Church. With Lex Caribbean the issue of security was extensively researched. They confirmed they have had no compromises to their own internal speeds and functionality since doing this. Moreover, they are throwing a signal that can be accessed some distance from their office. They have received no complaints or concerns about any adverse impact upon other operators within the same band.
The BEF has stated that it is also working to Wi-Fi enable all of the island’s community centers, and so far 15 of them have been furnished with the necessary equipment and now have fully operational free Wi-Fi networks.
Other success stories being touted by the BEF include important mushroom sites like hotels Bougainvillea Beach Resort and the Crane, which are reportedly enjoying greater guest satisfaction on TripAdvisor.com through their increased connectivity.
Born out of a vision in 2010, to make Barbados “The #1 Entrepreneurial Hub In The World”, the BEF has stated that it strongly believes that Barbados can develop a highly favourable business environment in which domestic and foreign entrepreneurs can prosper, with all the attendant benefits for Barbadians.
The BEF listed these benefits as including employment and training opportunities, especially valuable in the wake of the economic collapse and particularly relevant to an island producing many more higher education graduates than jobs suitable for them and where the professions are becoming saturated. Other benefits cited were increased income for the government arising from new sources of VAT, PAYE and corporation tax revenue.
On the economic front, the BEF stressed that the foreign exchange earned by entrepreneurs selling into the global market would also be vitally important.
“This is why the BEF sees inherent in the development of entrepreneurial business a vast, hardly tapped potential which, when unlocked will bolster our economy against crises such as that which currently confront us, and most of our global neighbors,” stated the organization.
The focus of the Foundation is Growing Sustainable Entrepreneurship through advancing the key Foundation Pillars of: Finance, Government Policy, Education and Skills, Mentorship and Business Facilitation. The BEF stated that it believes, free internet access is an as imperative to global competitiveness driven by entrepreneurship. This will be a key to stimulating the economy and unlocking the full potential of a small island state whose revenues are currently largely based on tourism and international business. The future of any entrepreneurial economy will hinge on the ease with which the entrepreneur and its customers can access and navigate the information super highway.